Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Dillon's threat tiresome




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        We should not assume Corey Dillon's threats are empty just because they are dumb.

        Smart people do silly things. Common sense often is overwhelmed by the forces of bile and bitterness. Running backs who carry a perpetual chip on their shoulder pads cannot always be counted on to act in their own best interest.

        Maybe Dillon makes good on his threat to sit out the first 10 games of the season rather than negotiate a long-term contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. Maybe he can afford to blow off that many game checks for the sake of spite. Maybe his vow to flip burgers rather than return to Spinney Field is more than high-handed hyperbole.

        And maybe Van Gogh was on to something when he sliced off an ear.

Standard bargaining
        Dillon's recent diatribes — taken literally — suggest a running back bent on self-destruction and up to his chinstrap in self-pity. Taken as bargaining bluster, however, they are fairly standard.

        Holding out creates leverage — provided the player is sufficiently important to be missed — and venting one's frustrations for the media makes headlines. Dillon, three times a 1,000-yard rusher with a problem kneecap, never again may occupy such a strong bargaining position as he has now. He appears determined to exploit it.

        So unless the Bengals trade Dillon before or during Saturday's NFL draft, we can expect a long summer of ritualized squabbling, with Dillon decrying management's “disrespect,” perceiving insults where none were intended, repeating incendiary rhetoric and turning haggling into grand opera.

Only in pro sports
        It's tiresome, tedious and typical. Only in the skewed world of professional sports could a contract offer averaging almost $4 million annually be seen as a slight.

        Only in an athlete's egocentric universe could the Bengals' failure to meet Dillon's demands demonstrate that Mike Brown “doesn't want a player of my caliber” and that the fans “should feel cheated and betrayed.”

        Only the conceited or the clueless would expect John Q. Public to mistake a player in search of a few more millions for a martyr.

        Dillon's complaints are designed to capitalize on recurring criticisms of the Bengals' frugal and impersonal operation. Certainly, the franchise is vulnerable on both counts.

        The Browns watch their pennies as if expecting them to spawn. They prefer to deal with players at arm's length rather than with an arm around the shoulder.

        That said, the only real dispute here is dollars. Show Dillon enough money and he's sure to shut up.

        “My expectation,” said Bengals director of pro/college personnel Jim Lippincott, “is that Corey will show up here in June and he'll be fine.”

        “I think this is just part of the negotiating process,” coach Bruce Coslet said.

        That, at least, is the way to bet. Carl Pickens was adamant about leaving the Bengals last season. He held out just long enough to avoid training camp, came back just in time to sacrifice no salary, and subsequently signed a five-year contract.

        Dillon may not be as pragmatic as Pickens. He might follow the pattern Joey Galloway ran last year in Seattle, skipping the bulk of the season. That strategy would require deep commitment and daunting risk, but each time Dillon castigates the Bengals, he makes it a little harder to capitulate to them.

        Common sense says Dillon eventually will take the money and run. Stubbornness makes it a standoff.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com

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